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cabrales

Food on Alaskan Cruises

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I recently took a 7 day Holland America cruise to Alaska out of Seattle. The scenery & nature along the way and up there is beautiful. Dining on the ship has improved in some aspects, but deteriorated in others (as compared to previous cruises I've taken).

Many thanks Jaymes, for her cruising tips. I made friends with the maitre d' right away much to my benefit. He happily arranged a private tour of the kitchen for just my husband and myself, which not only saved us from having to stand in a long line with 1000 other passengers snaking their way through the kitchen during the ship's scheduled tour (which I've done in the past), but we also got to be in the kitchen while the crew was busily at work, preparing salads, appetizers, filleting fish, etc. and I was able to get all my questions answered personally, and take my time.

Unfortunately, when the kitchen is trying to serve 700 people all at once, much of the work is done ahead of time, and therefore quality can (and does) suffer. They realize this is a problem and try their best, but there is no way to avoid this, and as has already been mentioned, is banquet style food for the most part. That said, if something is not up to your standard, the waiter will make every effort to get things just the way you like (and our waiters happily did this for us).

The best news re: food on cruises, is the new alternative dining room, which on our ship was The Oddessy dining room. It's by reservation only for dinner and open first come first serve at lunchtime. It's elegant, has only 25 tables seating up to 60 guests, has it's own kitchen, serves only a total of 110 meals per night (over 2 dining seatings), and everything is cooked to order and very beautifully & artfully presented (I will insert some pictures when I get a chance). Reservations fill up fast, so it's best to reserve right away (however suite guests can dine there as often as they like). My most enjoyable meals (both lunches & dinner) were in the Oddessy dining room. Other dinner meals were taken in the regular dining room, lunches in either the Oddesy, regular dining room or lido restaurant or deck, and breakfasts I took up in the Lido Restaurant & deck. I didn't make it to a single midight buffet or even the chocolate dessert extravaganza as I was always too full from dinner.

I enjoyed smoked salmon (nova) for breakfast everyday, as well as an occasional cooked to order omelette from the omelette station (the way to go for the best b-fast..although there are many b-fast options). Smoked salmon is offered at every breakfast and lunch, & some dinners, so if you like it (like I do) you will be happy. You can also get smoked salmon and some other meals available room service 24 hours.

Lunch choices are immense. My favorite lunch was grilled salmon w/ dill beurre blanc sauce in the Oddessy, and cracked dungeness crab & clams & mussels on the Lido deck. I also enjoyed the curry bar (w/stir fry to order), & varieties of smoked fish.

Favorite dinners were twin lobster tails in the Oddessy, and steamed Alaskan crab legs, as well as a good filet mignon, and NY steak. I discovered when ordering steak, if you like it MR, order it Rare and it will be just right. On the ship there was a noticeable difference in the quality of steak for those who ordered rare and those who ordered MR or more done (ie. rare was always the best cut). Salmon & Halibut are also on the menu, but I only ordered 1 of each, as they are also something I cook at home a lot already.

Desserts were fine, cheese plate was poor. The salads suffered, as well as potatoes. Also (outside of the Oddessy) the fish tended to be overcooked and a bit dry (no one seemed to notice but me, though). I disliked that the kitchen to save time would put croutons in the salad & soup ahead of time (thus losing crispness), so in the regular dining room I asked for mine on the side. The maitre d' said he would make a note to change the menus to reflect an option for croutons on the side, but he may have been humoring me. :raz:

Bottom line is cruising is not for everyone. I love it, though. (a family member is in the cruise biz, so I've been cruising a long time). People looking for a top dining experience (unless you are booking a suite and plan to eat in the special Oddessy/alternative dining room restaurant every day) are likely to be disappointed in the food at times. However, if you like wonderful scenery, relaxing or shore excursions (ie. float planes, helicoptor rides, kayaking, dog sledding, whale & other nature expeditions), as well being pampered by a crew who's main goal is to please and give you a great vacation, I would highly recommend it.

Conde Naste has rated Crystal cruise as #1 in food, Holland America as #2. btw, all of Holland America's ships food orders (from the Chefs) are handled through the Seattle office.

pictures of food to follow...

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I took these photos rather quickly of some of the food I had on Holland America Line's Amsterdam ship...

a lunch of clams, mussels, shrimp & halibut on top of fettuccine

mussels.jpg

another lunch..

fish.jpg

carpaccio appetizer

carpaccio.jpg

twin lobster tail dinner

lobster.jpg

osso bucco dinner

osso.jpg

desserts

dessert.jpg

dessert & cheese cart

cheese.jpg

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My nose!, oh my nose!..... I think I broke it when I reflexively dove into the picture of the lobster tails......


Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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Cruising season is upon us, and it appears that I might have an opportunity to sail to Alaska sometime in the fall.

Thought I'd bring this back up to see if anyone has any recent cruise experiences they'd like to share.

:rolleyes:


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Just reread this thread and thought I'd add my favorite tip for food when cruising. And that is that most first time cruisers, when presented with the menu in the main dining room, think that the rules are: one from column A; one from column B; etc. In other words that one can order one thing from the appetizer selection, one soup or salad, one main, one dessert, and so forth.

When in truth, you could order every single thing from the menu if you were so inclined.

I usually order ALL the appetizers, a soup and dessert or cheese plate. And skip the entrees. For some reason, I find the appetizers to be tastier than the mains. It's been my experience, anyway, that the appetizers are quite good, and they're things I like -- smoked salmon, caviar, shrimp and other seafoods, carpaccio...stuff like that. And they are usually costlier ingredients, as well, which is why they're served in small portions.


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Ahhhh! Cruising and food. Two of my favorite topics rolled into one. And speaking of one word, I have the only one you need to know--Celebrity.

We have cruised with three different lines and then tried Celebrity and we will never go back. And the food is one of the biggest reasons. And not necessarily the food in the main dining room.

X (that's what those of us who are Celebrity fanatics call the line because of the huge X on the side of all the ships--dates from their early Greek beginnings) has speciality restaurants on board their Millennium class ships. And OH MY GOD, they are special. We sailed a 14 night Panama Canal cruise on X's Infinity (now sailing out of Vancouver to Alaska) last November and ate in the dining room most nights but our two nights in the United States (all are named after famous ocean liners of the past) were wonderful.

Let me relate a typical dinner we had the first night we ate there.

We started with a tomato and goat cheese souffle accompanied by prosseco. It was wonderful. The perfect way to start a fantastic meal.

The second course is what most of us would consider the entree. I had a rack of lamb in puff pastry carved at the table. My bride had steak diane prepared at the table.

Following the wonderful entree, there is a cheese course. A fantastically knowledgeable waiter rolls a cart to your table with around 20 different types of cheese. Any you can have a sample of as many of them as you want.

Lastly dessert. One of my favorites was on the menu, Grand Marnier souffle. A true delight.

All of this for a $30 service charge per person. $30! And the best service you have ever had. Basically one waiter per person. Seriously, when came back to eat there again later in the week, we went with a party of 8. When the entrees were brought to the table they came on plates covered with silver domes (I know there is a name for those, I just don't know what it is) we were surrounded by four waiters and a all the domes were reviewed at once. Again at the end of the meal all four waiters appeared and surrounded us and removed our plates at the same time.

So, outstanding service, wonderful food and all that for only $30 plus the cost of wine/drinks.

And the wine list was pretty good as well.

All of this and one of the finest martini bars anywhere. And the food in the main dining room wasn't too bad either. Stick with appetizers, entrees and soups. Skip the salads and the desserts. They could be better. And spend the $30 as often as you can.

And here's the best news. You can go to Alaska from Vancouver on either Summit or Infinity, both have speciality restaurants. Enjoy!

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I have to agree with Jaymes-- the food in Gustavus is amazing, if you can get your hands on some Gustavus strawberries, your life will never be the same!

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